It’s hard to write this race report because doing so acknowledges the end, and it’s sad to let go. What made Kona spectacular was my group of 14 pink friends, the opportunity to train and learn from Rachel, and the spirit of Kona itself. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and our thoughts are worth more. I’ll do my best to share both.
Oahu club tough, one row above new champ Rinny!
I began my day at the King Kam beach, swam around the pier as a warm-up and lined up far left of the buoys. Starting far left meant I swam longer, but had a perfect clean start, never got touched, and felt smooth and relaxed the whole way. Exited the water happily in 1:19 to cheers from Ryan, Lectie, Pomai, and Angela. Laughed with the change tent volunteers about my toe socks (I know, I know), skin-tight cooler shirt, gobs of sunscreen and multiple homemade musubis. If you were looking for a fast transition, these were not ideal choices (each 7+ minutes), but to me it was worth the extra time to start each part of the race as calm and comfortable as possible. And am happy to report no sunburn, blisters, or chafing!
And then, we had the fastest ride to Hawi ever! All tailwind, no crosswinds. Near the gas station in Kawaihae James came FLYING by me, screaming LIVE LIKE DUDA! I cried, out of pride for James, and overcome with emotion over the race. Here we were, really doing it, and I was so grateful. Hit the halfway point faster than I expected in 2:45, still feeling comfortable and relaxed. Stopped in special needs to re-apply sunscreen and grab more nutrition. Light winds made for a voggy and hot day on the bike, so I was doing everything I could to stay cool and protected. Grabbed at least 2 waters every aid station, one in the cage, one squirted all over head and body. I chose not to wear an aerohelmet to stay as cool as possible, and was happy with that decision.
The descent from Hawi was fast and fun. Around Kawaihae I got a wicked headache, the kind that hurts when you touch your forehead. I was very hydrated, so maybe the heat, or vog, or effort, or everything. I concentrated on staying relaxed and cool, and tried to get back to the pier as quickly as possible using the least amount of effort. It’s a tricky tradeoff! I had done this entire ride in training 5 weeks before, and remembered how I felt after pushing pretty hard all the way home. I erred on the conservative side, staying within my comfort zone and breathing easy. In hindsight I probably could have pushed a bit harder here, but made the call to play it safe. In hindsight I’m also pretty sure that I thought I had a lot more time in the bank than I actually did :) That stretch from Waikoloa home is eerily quiet, amazingly hot, and mentally very challenging. Unfortunately, I think I lost focus for a good stretch between miles 90-100-ish. I stopped looking at my watch or the mile markers, put my head down, and focused on my breath and staying calm. Snapped out of it when I heard screams and cheers from my Waimea girls OD and Nohealani, then Jules right as I arrived back to town. My bike time was a bit slower than I hoped (6:27), but I stayed positive and was optimistic about having a great run. In T2, more sunscreen, new toe socks (!!), new shorts, shoes, and visor and I was excited to run.
The first 8-ish miles of the run I was absolutely positive I could run 9min pace ALL DAY LONG! Legs and lungs felt great, I left my headache on my bike in T2, and the energy from the turquoise bocas, try fitness gals and other oahu friends on Kuakini and Alii was electric! I felt smooth and strong as I passed Hines (YES!), all the way to the turn-around at St. Peter’s. Michelle and Roberto rode by cheering, Sam screamed at me from a pick-up truck, and everything in the world was awesome.
Awesome would not last :) After the turn-around my stomach grumbled. No panic, this happened once at IMCdA, in and out of the beach park potty and I should be good to go. I was in, I was out, I was not good to go. I stayed positive, kept up the fueling and hydration plan as best I could, and focused on getting to my bocas on Palani. Made the right turn up, saw the happiest sea of blue friends ever, smiled and ran (jogged) up the hill. I remember Ryan saying “that’s the way,” and Felipe saying “think good thoughts,” and I knew it was about to get real :) The next several miles were some of the hardest of the day. My stomach was angry and forced me to stop a lot, and twice I almost didn’t make it between porta potties. Cold sweats are an overwhelmingly bad feeling when you are hot, trying to move forward, and concerned about having a terribly embarrassing accident right there on the highway. Somewhere around mile 13 Aaron found me on his bike, and asked if I was eating and drinking. I remember whispering a quiet “yes.” But the truth was it had been a while. I was afraid to take anything in, as it was going right through me. Michelle came back by on her bike and I must have looked as bad as I felt. She yelled in a very commanding and all-caps tone “THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU SMILE BECAUSE YOU ARE DOING THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS.” She was right, and I needed to get it together. I had tried a lot of things along the way, but not everything. I stopped eating meat when I was an 18 year old environmental studies student working at a health food store in New Orleans. And at mile 14 of the Kona Ironman, I threw idealism to the wind and slammed my first cup of chicken broth in almost 20 years. It was warm, salty, and quite possibly the best decision I made all day. Within 10 minutes my stomach settled and I got my first “burst” (these things are relative) of energy since the happy bocas on Palani.
From there, it was a few more stops, and broth at the next several aid stations. Stopping was difficult. I was uncomfortable, the porta potties at this point were the stuff nightmares are made of, and it was hard to get a good rhythm going from a stand-still. Running into the energy lab, the sun was setting and the scene was surreal. I felt remarkably serene, probably delirium, but possibly relief because my stomach had finally settled. Looking back, I wish I could have found more focus in the energy lab. When it’s dark and things hurt, you’ve really got to want it. I think with more focus and a stronger commitment to a time goal I could have gotten in and out of this place faster, both literally and in my head. Conservative was the play of the day. No regrets, just acknowledgement of decisions made in the moment, and lessons learned. I don’t think I could truly understand this feeling without experiencing it. Now I know. And next time, I will dig deeper.
I did eventually emerge from the energy lab :) At this point it was pitch black dark except for the fluorescent bobbing glow-sticks running by. A volunteer handed me a glow-stick, I accidentally dropped it, and there was simply no way I was bending all that way over to get it. And just when I was really starting to lose hope and despite my darkness, they found me. Raul, Felipe, Aaron, and Lectie were suddenly surrounding me, encouraging, loving, supporting. I was so happy to see them, jogging a little too easy and asking about Mariane’s day, Amy’s day, asking how they felt, and reminding them to go for Eddie right behind me. Raul suddenly seemed super annoyed. “You know what Kim? If you can talk like this, you can run faster.” I shut up and picked up the pace. And when I tried to walk through the aid stations to enjoy my newfound love of all things chicken, Raul in his most authoritative voice directed me to run, not walk through. “Do you know it’s not even 7pm yet? Do you even know where you are or how far you have to go? Keep track of your pace, do not lose focus.” It was exactly the tough love I needed. Aaron promised one more light, one more hill. There were actually two lights, and two and a half hills, but it didn’t matter because I was within a couple miles of the best finish line in the world, so finally bid them goodbye, took a moment to acknowledge the privilege of racing here, Duda, my Grandma, my 14 pink friends, and my own efforts to get here, and started running as fast as I could down Palani, Kuakini, Hualalai, and finally, Alii Drive.
I remember my heart beating loudly as I ran through the finish chute. I remember thinking how grateful I was to Raul and my friends who found me after the energy lab for getting me moving. I wanted to come closer to 12 hours, but had promised my Mom, Deborah, Joy G, and others I knew would be watching that I would be done by 7:30pm. I saw the clock in the late 12:20’s, smiled and wondered if it was even possible to get through this race alone.
With Team Bugajohnson almost immediately after finishing. At this point, Eddie’s not sure what he thinks of standing that close to me.
Sunday was spent recovering at 69’s with Nohea and my giant cookie medal (thank you Bonnie!). I wish I could say I shellacked that beautiful cookie and will keep it forever, or that I shared it, but I can’t.
My pink friends were wildly successful. Lori settled a longtime score by finishing super strong; Kathryn, Mariane, Amy, and many others had breakthrough races; James finished 3rd in his division in the universe; and we were all done and hugging by 10pm that night. Monday we swam together, said goodbye, and gave thanks for the gift that was Kona. I do hope to one day return to this race, with more experience, and more mental strength. Until then I will be cherishing these memories, and dreaming in pink.